April 1st, 2022
MOVIE: APOLLO 10 ½: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD
STARRING: JACK BLACK, MILO COY, LEE EDDY
DIRECTED BY: RICHARD LINKLATER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The nostalgia that Richard Linklater has in his films is the nostalgia I love. He’s a romantic at the very center of his heart. Romantic for the past, his childhood, his upbringing, the pop culture that influenced him, and his family. It’s been evident from the beginning, with a trip back to high school in Dazed and Confused, the conversational romance in Before Sunset, and his time capsule work in Boyhood. With Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood, it’s more of the same, which is a great thing, in an animated throwback to the 60’s, following the life of a boy growing up with NASA in his backyard. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood is a beautiful snapshot, a pleasant reminder of what it’s like to be a kid and done fantastically in that romantic Linklater way.
The year is 1969 and we meet Stan (voiced by Milo Coy) playing kickball on the school playground. He’s brought into a room by two NASA scientists- played by Zachary Levi and Glen Powell- who have selected him to be a part of their Apollo mission. They have built the space capsule too small and the only person that could fit in there is a 10-year old kid. That’s the starting point, what follows after is a rundown of Stan’s life in Houston, Texas- narrated perfectly by Jack Black. Growing up with his two older brothers and three older sisters, riding bikes, stealing wood from a construction site to make a pingpong table, sitting in front of the TV to catch The Munsters or whatever great show was on, and keeping one eye on NASA’s pursuit in landing on the moon.
For most viewers aware of Linklaters work, it’s no surprise to see Apollo 10 ½ filmed in a rotoscope-style of animation, which involves the actors performing and then animated over those performances. It was a style done in earlier Linklater films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Both of which made sense within the narrative, as one was a venture into the dreaming mind and the latter was a dive into strange science fiction. Here it works perfectly in that romantic fashion, capturing a moment in time that is bursting with color, where things such as the sunset, fireworks, or the glow of outer space deserve that perfect projection.
The story itself is an absolute delight to go along with, where the performance by Milo Coy is the majority of any acting praise, but what rises above is Linklater’s writing. Similar to how he did in previous works, the Texas lifer understands how to capture being a kid, using a story to observe a time and a way of life. Stan’s parents (played perfectly by Lee Eddy and Bill Wise) are larger than life characters, both showing their parenting skills, such as making sure the attendant gives them all of the gas out of the pump or explaining exactly what a hippie looks like. Mom makes Jello. Dad works for NASA (in shipping and receiving). It’s all a part of that time, a part of what Linklater wants to share, some moments represent real sides of his own childhood, and the other half is an embellishment. It amounts to the kind of cinema that great auteurs make.
Any quibbles to be had with Apollo 10 ½ is that it runs a bit long- even at one hour and thirty-five minutes. On one hand it’s a perfectly abstract double feature with Summer of Soul– the Oscar winning documentary that reflected on the experience of Harlem’s black communities during the moon landing. On the other hand, this is a look at the white experience of 1969, a bit of Americana in the suburbs, something that is distant from the experience that Summer of Soul captures. Either way it’s about harnessing one child’s upbringing, delivering a memory, a slice of life, in a romantic blast from the past. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood is another Richard Linklater picture that’s out of this world.
APOLLO 10 ½: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD IS PLAYING ON NETFLIX APRIL 1ST, 2022
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady